Godiva has long been synonymous with luxury and the finest Belgian chocolate, and the company that serves decadent treats to royalty is now taking its products to Asia’s new high-end airports. General manager for global travel retail Christoph Neusser discusses how companies can take advantage of Asia’s international travellers.

The travel retail sector is fast becoming crucial to the luxury retail industry, and companies manufacturing high-end products must increasingly factor in airports when they develop a strategy. Asia is fuelling this boom, with China alone accounting for approximately 30% of the entire travel retail market, according to data by Global Blue.

Christoph Neusser of Godiva says rapid innovation in Asia’s airports is driving much of the industry growth and that companies must work to balance improving accessibility with retaining a luxury identity.

"It’s not a secret that Asia is the most mobile and fastest-growing market, there’s a lot going on there," he says. "If you look at airports like Hong Kong or Beijing Capital International Airport’s terminal three, they really are the most modern airports there are, and there’s more to come."

His company’s competitors are usually more local or regional players, Neusser argues, making Godiva, present in 105 countries, a uniquely global company within the luxury chocolate travel retail sector. Its core product is boxed chocolates and pralines, made exclusively in its factory in Brussels and shipped out for travel retail worldwide.

"Godiva is perhaps, within confectionery, the only premium luxury brand that is available around the globe," Neusser argues. "We are also the company with the highest degree of innovation in travel retail because we develop products and ideas exclusively for that channel."

Eastern promise

As new airports across the Middle East and Asia integrate travel retail into their design concepts, Neusser says, luxury retailers should work to develop unique ideas exclusively for the purposes of attracting international travellers in transit.

"Those airports are built in such a way that retailers can really make a difference in terms of their offering and in terms of customer experience, because it is part and parcel of the total context," he says.

Godiva is working to expand its market and attract new customers by developing a wide range of products and appealing to diverse segments of the population.

"We clearly command the upper segment of the business, and certainly also want to keep it there, but we will also be developing products to become more accessible," Neusser continues.

"You really want to show customers a broad and varied picture of what you do, from high-end to more everyday products. Rather than only having a few things on sale, companies should show their brand in its entirety to really work on the increased positioning and image building, which is important."

He highlights the luxury boutique that Godiva recently opened at Hamad International Airport in Qatar, which, with its 12m counter, can lay claim to being the largest chocolate counter in the world. The boutique is part of the company’s ‘counter concept’, where its shops showcase a wide range of products and give customers a taste of the world of Godiva.

"The store is really chocolate heaven – we brought in everything Godiva has to offer and more; chocolate giftboxes and drinks like Chocolixir, for example. It’s staffed with chocolatiers 24/7. This is a model that we would like to see happen elsewhere."

Market insurgence

The company is working on numerous projects across the region, from new boutiques in Singapore and Hong Kong to pop-up shops that can be moved from one airport to another, and also plans to break into China’s domestic market, Neusser says.

The travel retail industry has been called the world’s ‘sixth continent’ as more than a billion people passed through international airports in 2013 – 15% of the global population – with Chinese travellers spending $128.6 billion in international airports alone. And Godiva is working constantly to attract international customers and come up with new ideas.

"It is not as though there is one project or so," Neusser says. "It is a continuous expansion and continuous improvement of what we have to offer."